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Madison Stottlemyre was having a meltdown. She had recently decided, at 20, to leave the University of Arizona and pursue a career in franchising under the tutelage of her father, former Major Leaguer Todd Stottlemyre. But, despite Todd’s warning that being the boss was quite different than all other jobs that she had done at his company, Koibito Poké, she was finding out the hard way.
“They were calling me names,” Madison recalls, almost fondly, of some of the employees who did not respect her, as much for her age as for her last name. “They would call me ‘Daddy’s Little Princess’ to my face, all kinds of things,” she laughs as she recites other names. “At the time, it hurt. I went home and burst into my parents’ room crying.”
Todd recounts how he sat, stone-faced, as his daughter poured out her heart. Then he gave her a choice.
“I just sat there,” he says, “and my wife is staring at me. And I said to her, ‘Maddie, you got two choices here. You can either be Daddy’s Little Princess, or you can be the boss. But you can’t be both.’ I was basically telling her there’s no path to the top of the mountain for Daddy’s Little Princess. There’s only a path if you’ll be your authentic self and go out and turn that store around, turn that team around, get the right people.”
“There’s no path to the top of the mountain for Daddy’s Little Princess”
It was one of those “gut-check” moments, and Todd Stottlemyre could relate to his daughter’s frustration on more than one level. He heard the whispers when he was younger, too. He wasn’t always “Todd,” he was former pitcher and famous pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre’s son, and surely it was the name that got him somewhere. Fifteen major league seasons, 138 career wins and two World Series rings later, Stottlemyre proved he was his own man.
“Growing up under the shadow of my father,” Todd says, “I was told my whole life, ‘You’re not like your dad. What are you going to do when it doesn’t work out?’ That night took me to that place, and I had to let her know she shouldn’t try to be me. I need her to be her. Some people are going to have different perceptions and it is what it is. You still have to go do the job.”
Baseball to Business: Keep it Simple
Todd’s father, Mel, played 11 seasons for the New York Yankees, but it was Mel’s 23 years as a coach where he stood apart, earning universal respect and praise from some of the best pitchers in baseball history. He was pitching coach for the New York Mets in 1992 while Todd was struggling as a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I called him and said, ‘Dad I’m struggling so bad. I can’t get anybody out. I’m just getting clobbered out there.’ And he says, ‘I see that. Well, you’re gonna do three things and you’ll go dominate. Stay back in your delivery, finish strong and think [keeping the ball] down. If you do those three things, you’ll go dominate.’ Very simple. Then he says, ‘I want you to write “KISS” underneath the bill of your game hat. You know what that stands for? Keep it simple, stupid.’ So that’s what I did.”
“Keep it simple, stupid”
Todd went on to win two World Series titles, in 1992 and 1993, as a key starting pitcher for the Blue Jays. But in 2001, he was injured while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Knowing baseball careers are limited by age and other factors, Todd began to soak up anything he could read about business.
When he retired following the 2002 season, there was one intangible lesson that he brought from the baseball field to the business world that translated perfectly.
“People ask me all the time about the difference between this team and that team,” he says. “And it’s very simple. The difference between those two teams is the people. And people are always going to be the difference-maker in business. If I’ve got great people, my business plan can be average and I can win championships. I can have the greatest business plan in the world, and [if] I have the wrong people I’m gonna fail. So whether it’s baseball or business, people absolutely make a difference in the team.”
After launching a hedge fund and co-founding his own investment firm, Stottlemyre discovered that the financial sector was not an ideal match for his entreprenurial personality. So, he authored two self-help books, became a professional high-performance coach, and an influential business developer.
Franchising, naturally, came next. But there is a unique approach to that, as well.
“We don’t we don’t believe in the word ‘franchisee’ and ‘franchisor’,” Todd said, “we do believe in partners, team members.”
Poké Bowl Market Bubble?
As poké bowls continue to surf the wave of popularity in the global food scene, entrepreneurs and investors are increasingly interested in the poké bowl restaurant franchise market. But as with any industry, there are potential pitfalls. The poké bowl restaurant market has exploded over recent years, leaving industry experts to speculate if it might be teetering on the brink of saturation. An oversaturated market can present significant challenges for newcomers, demanding innovation and differentiation to hook customers and keep business buoyant. The longevity of this food trend remains uncertain, and any decline in consumer interest could leave franchises floundering in its wake.
“We’re going to learn everything we can about this industry. And then we’re gonna go set our own bar”
Maintaining steady quality control is vital in the franchising model, where reputation is everything. As franchises proliferate, ensuring consistent food quality and customer experience across all outlets becomes an increasingly complex undertaking, making both staff and ingredients even more vital. Todd said he takes these factors seriously and stresses this to his staff.
“I tell everyone on the team, I hope we learn from everyone else but we don’t allow anyone else to set the bar for us,” Todd says. “We’re going to learn from everyone, not just in poké. We’re going to learn from quick-service restaurants. We’re going to learn from sit-down restaurants. We’re going to learn everything we can about this industry. And then we’re gonna go set our own bar.”
Becoming ‘The Boss’
Now, two years after that “gut check” moment, Madison Stottlemyre has no regrets. Following Todd’s talk, she went to her room, pulled herself together and decided she wasn’t going to be Daddy’s Little Princess. “It was definitely the turning point,” the Koibito Poké chief operating officer, now 22, says. She stepped up and took charge, turning a team with some underperforming — and perhaps a little jealous — members into a fully-functioning unit.
“It was definitely the turning point”
“It was almost like a flip of a switch went off in my brain,” Madison explains. “And I thought, Well, I can’t be both, and I’m here to lead and this is what I want to do. So ultimately, I went in the next day. And I thought, You know what, if I end up letting people go and I have to work their work, I’m gonna be okay with that.“
She went to work, addressing any pushback to her plan to build a top-level team.
“I started with one location at a time,” she says. “I look back at [what] the team was at that moment, and quite honestly, it’s laughable. Because when I look at the team we are today, I have to tell them every day that they make me look good.”
Today, she is comfortable as the leader her dad believed she could be. That doesn’t mean, however, that long days and weeks are a thing of the past.
“There are still 70-80 hour weeks when we’re opening new stores,” she says, “for instance, this July, we’re going to be opening up two new locations. So those are going to be long weeks for sure.”
Fortunately, she added, she was able to recently hire someone to run the day-to-day operations of Koibito Poké’s corporate stores, enabling her to focus more on identifying and helping to promote leaders from within the organization and help develop new business, among other duties.
“My day-to-day right now, it’s a different thing every single day,” she says. “Whether I’m in Arizona working on our corporate stores, whether I’m going to open up a new location, there’s lots of different hats and a lot of different areas and that’s what makes it so fun. It’s definitely a different adventure every day.”